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What is Land Referencing?

What is Land Referencing?

Land referencing is the practice of identifying and classifying persons and organisations holding legal interests and rights over land which is subject to development. 

Land referencing plays a vital part in the development of infrastructure and regeneration in the UK and Ireland, which in turn results in physical changes to our geography and terrain.


The practice of Land Referencing in the UK can be dated at least to the canal and railway building booms of the 18th and 19th centuries. It involves engaging with communities and researching data sources to determine relationships between people and places and maintain accurate records of land tenure in support of gaining consent over land for temporary or permanent objectives.  


Today this research requires the collection and interpretation of industrial volumes of data attributed to spatial extents, which must be reported in clear and accessible formats, often specified through statutory processes such as The Planning Act 2008 and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons/ Lords (Private Business).

land interests

  • Freehold/ fee simple

  • Leasehold (short)

  • Leasehold (long)

  • Tenant

  • Crofter & turbary rights

  • Legal occupier

  • Easement beneficiary

  • Private right of way beneficiary

  • Frontage rights

  • Mineral rights

  • Cautioner

  • Licencees/Licensors

  • Sporting & riparian rights

  • Mortgage lender

  • Those who claim a legal interest

Our projects address future problems through innovative approaches in ever changing environments.

Land Referencers

act as a consistent point of contact between affected communities and multi-disciplinary and organisational project delivery teams.

Land Referencing Road Map

Land Referencing is also the application of this dynamic and essential data throughout a typical infrastructure or regeneration project lifecycle, from the initial feasibility stages, through value engineering by informing design definition, securing access to land for surveys, statutory processes to assure consultation and secure land, supporting communities during construction and through re-registration and disposal of land once construction is complete.


why it's essential



  • Compulsory purchase orders (CPOs)

  • Side roads orders (SROs)

  • Development Consent Orders (DCOs)

  • Transport and Works Act Orders (TWAOs)

  • Vesting Orders

  • Hybrid Bills

The United Kingdom boasts one of the most developed and extensive infrastructure systems in the world.  This infrastructure requires constant investment for maintenance, to increase capacity and to prepare for a more environmentally friendly future, meeting Net Zero by 2050.

Infrastructure development generally requires permanent use of new land (e.g. the final footprint of the completed project) or temporary use of land (e.g to support construction by providing access or for construction compounds). New rights may also be required (e.g. to ensure access for future maintenance). 

Successful planning consent and security of land is the core objective of Land Referencing.  Organisations may seek to apply for compulsory purchase powers to secure land required to construct and maintain the project they are promoting.

Scheme promoters require certainty that all the land required to complete their project can be secured, ideally through agreement but with the option to acquire compulsorily if required

Promoting authorities must justify the need for using CPO powers by showing that the public good outweighs the loss of individual property rights and interests and demonstrate that there is a ‘Compelling case in the public interest’ to overcome individual and/or environmental/ social rights.


Comprehensive referencing of the land needed for a new development project greatly enhances the probability of securing planning consent through:

  • implementing a diligent and precedent based methodology to research and record complex land ownership and occupier details from a wide range of sources; provide data in simple to understand reports and maps

  • early identification and prioritisation of gaps in recorded land tenure

  • identifying and consulting named stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle and provide data which may improve scheme design or limit scheme impact

  • data which can flex with design change

  • shared project intelligence across multi-disciplinary project and teams through online databases and GIS platforms

  • assured GDPR compliance for collection and storage

  • informing and optimising the scheme limits

  • negotiate and secure access to land to complete surveys

  • identifying special category land such as Crown land, common land and allotments which each require specific approaches to gain consent

  • satisfying statutory duty to notify all interested parties of the details of its proposed project to give them the opportunity to make representations or lodge objections

  • facilitating reasonable efforts to secure land through negotiation

  • a notification process to ensure that those who can prove a legal and compensable interest in the affected land or property can claim compensation for their loss

  • full audit trail proving inquiries to identify all legal interest have been conduced in a diligent and reasonable manner; support through examination, public inquiry and judicial reviews

  • development and assurance of planning application documents e.g. Books of Reference, Land Plans and Works Plans

  • secure a complete land envelope to ensure the project can be completed in full 



Land Referencing in its current form, is a profession which can be dated at least to the canal and railway building booms of the 18th and 19th centuries. It does however have roots throughout the history of land law, originating back to Roman times. The Romans established the basis of civil law in countries around their empire, primarily to settle disputes so that people did not resort to violence to resolve them. This  applied to land ownership. If a person had two years of continuous possession of a house, or piece of land, this constituted ownership.

Land Referencing History

Knowing who owned land not only reduced disputes, it also empowered the government to identify owners and tax them based on the size of ownership. This principle has been used by governments worldwide ever since  as a tax-raising tool. This meant that tax officials with knowledge about who owned what land were very much in demand. These were the forerunners of today’s Land Referencers.



Land Referencing is a practice which brings value across a wide range of development and regeneration projects.


The majority of these projects fall within the following sectors:


  • Aviation

    • Airport expansion​

    • Airport re-instatement

  • Energy

    • Renewable generation inc. wind, solar, hydrogen

    • Interconnectors

    • New infrastructure, apparatus and connections​

    • Nuclear

  • Highways

    • Strategic roads​

    • Upgrades

    • Crossings and tunnels

  • Rail

    • High speed rail​

    • National rail upgrade

    • Metro links and light rail

    • Upgrades inc. level crossing removal

  • Regeneration

    • Housing

    • City & town centre development

  • Water

    • Strategic infrastructure​




Project Map


Our interactive map shows a range of projects where land referencing was central to the land consents process.

Locations are indicative.  Click on the locations for more information.

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